October 24, 2016

Frank Artiles manipulates facts in misleading attack ad on Dwight Bullard



Through a new Spanish-language TV ad and other campaign materials, state Senate candidate and Miami Republican state Rep. Frank Artiles is falsely telling central Miami-Dade County voters his opponent “voted to release violent criminals and sexual delinquents in our community.”

Artiles’ TV ad claims Cutler Bay Democratic state Sen. Dwight Bullard “was the only senator who voted against keeping our communities safe — the only one,” and that Artiles would be the one who would protect the communities of Senate District 40. He echoed the attack in an image he posted on Twitter, too, in which Artiles claimed he “led the way to keep sexual predators off the streets” while Bullard “voted in favor of releasing violent criminals.”

But Artiles’ assertions manipulate facts.

Bullard called the ad "disgusting" and another example of "gutter-level politics" from Artiles.

More here.

October 21, 2016

Obama endorses 13 Florida legislative candidates, including several in Miami-Dade races


President Barack Obama is supporting 13 Florida Democrats running for the state Legislature, the Florida Democratic Party announced this morning.

The list includes several high-profile candidates in highly competitive races -- many in Miami-Dade county.

Those include District 37 Senate candidate and current Miami state Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez and District 39 candidate and political newcomer Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, of Pinecrest.

Both Rodriguez and Mucarsel-Powell are trying to unseat powerful Miami Republicans -- Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and Anitere Flores, respectively -- and help Democrats narrow the Republicans' hold on the chamber majority.

On the House side, Obama also backed Miami-Dade legislative contenders Ivette Gonzalez Petkovich (challenging Hialeah Republican Manny Diaz Jr. in District 103); Nick Duran (running for Rodriguez's open seat in District 112 against Rosa Maria Palomino); Daisy Baez (running for the open District 114 seat against John Couriel); and Robert Asencio (who's in a bitter battle against former state Rep. David Rivera in District 118).

Many other Democrats also running against Republicans in Florida legislative districts weren't included in Obama's endorsement list, which is solely non-incumbents.

But noticeably absent from the list were state Sen. Dwight Bullard (who's running for re-election in District 40 in a heated race against state Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami) and District 38 Senate candidate and current state Rep. Daphne Campbell (who's running against former state Rep. Phillip Brutus).

Here is the full list of Florida legislative candidates Obama endorsed:


Continue reading "Obama endorses 13 Florida legislative candidates, including several in Miami-Dade races" »

October 17, 2016

Miami Republicans Artiles and Bileca diverge in supporting Donald Trump

@ByKristenMClark & @MaryEllenKlas

Whether to continue supporting Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is a decision that continues to divide Republicans in Miami-Dade County.

Miami Republicans state Rep. Michael Bileca and state Senate candidate and current state Rep. Frank Artiles gave nearly identical comments in separate interviews with the Miami Herald's editorial board on Monday in admonishing Americans' top choices for president this year.

"I can tell you right now that I think that both candidates are the most horrible candidates that have ever been put up for the president of the United States," Artiles said.

"I think we have the two worst candidates that either party has ever put up in the history of presidential elections," Bileca said.

But there's a big difference between the two legislators beyond that: Artiles supports Trump for president, while Bileca doesn't.

Continue reading "Miami Republicans Artiles and Bileca diverge in supporting Donald Trump" »

October 16, 2016

Cuba, Trump and Miami's most contentious state Senate race


Foreign policy isn't an issue for the Florida state Senate. Yet Cuba came up anyway Sunday in a Spanish-language debate between Republican state Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and Democratic state Rep. José Javier Rodríguez.

Ambrosio Hernández, host of Univision 23's "Al Punto Florida," asked if they'd be willing to increase state commerce ties with Cuba, given President Barack Obama's renewed diplomatic relationship with the island's communist regime. Both candidates are Cuban American.

No, said Diaz de la Portilla. "There's political prisoners. There's human-rights violations," he said. "It's like doing business with the Mafia."

Rodríguez called the topic "painful" for children of exiles like himself. "I support the measures the president has taken because after 50 years without results, we needed to change, he said.

And then, Rodríguez invoked Donald Trump's reported violation of the Cuban trade embargo in 1998.

"We must be strongly against what Trump did," he said. "My opponent has not said anything, has stayed silent on the deception that Trump engaged in about doing business in Cuba, hiding it and lying to this community."

"I criticize anybody who breaks the law of this country, being Trump or [Hillary] Clinton," Diaz de la Portilla responded. Then, turning to Rodríguez, he added: "I don't know where he's been, because I've criticized [Trump] a lot for this hypocrisy."

Diaz de la Portilla has said he isn't voting for Trump or Clinton.

October 14, 2016

Both parties have a lot at stake in Miami-Dade's state Senate races

Miami dade districts@ByKristenMClark

With an already narrow balance of power at stake in the Florida Senate — and the political futures of several incumbents on the line — some of Miami-Dade County’s state Senate races have turned increasingly ugly as Election Day draws closer.

In one race, a Democratic incumbent has been accused of consorting with a Middle Eastern terrorist, and in a couple of others, the candidates have sparred passionately over their policies and potential conflicts of interest.

Voters are already casting ballots in the county’s five races, four of which are competitive. Democrats hope an anti-Donald Trump wave will help boost their candidates’ prospects even further, while Republicans have poured millions of dollars into helping their contenders retain — or in one case, gain — seats.

While Democrats hope Senate seats in Tampa and central Florida could also be pick-ups for them, Miami-Dade County has the highest concentration of consequential races. They are in play this year because of redrawn Senate districts that could affect the Republicans’ 26-14 chamber majority.

Current Republican Sens. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and Anitere Flores and Democratic Sen. Dwight Bullard all want voters to send them back to Tallahassee, but each is fighting an aggressive opponent angling to unseat them.

More here.

October 12, 2016

Daphne Campbell sends, retracts fundraising email on official House account



Prematurely describing herself as "New Senator Elect Daphne Campbell," the Miami Democratic state representative now seeking a state Senate seat accidentally sent out a fundraising invitation Wednesday afternoon on her official Florida House email account.

Campbell sent a follow-up email two hours later -- from a campaign email -- saying: "Please Ignore previous Email/Flyer which was sent by error from the State email by a Staff. See the corrected email ... Sorry for the error."

Both of Campbell's emails invited the recipient to join "the only Democratic nominee" for Senate District 38 for a fundraiser Wednesday night in Tallahassee. The event for Campbell was to be hosted by Oscar Braynon -- a Miami Gardens senator who will be the Senate Democrats' next leader.

At this point in the election cycle, all races have only one candidate from any political party. Florida's Aug. 30 primary determined party contenders for the general election.

With 31 percent of the vote, Campbell won a six-way primary to become the Democratic nominee in the District 38 race. But she's not guaranteed to be the "New Senator Elect" yet, as she called herself in the "From" line at the top of both emails.

Campbell faces former Democratic state Rep. Phillip Brutus on the Nov. 8 ballot. Brutus, of North Miami, is running as a no-party affiliated candidate in this election.

Neither candidate has raised much money this cycle, compared to other Miami-Dade state Senate races, which have attracted hundreds of thousands of dollars. As of Sept. 30 -- the most recent reporting date -- Campbell had raised about $100,000 so far this cycle and had about $4,400 in the bank. Meanwhile, Brutus had raised $12,300 -- in addition to $12,500 he's loaned his campaign -- and he'd spent about $11,400.

The winner will replace longtime state Sen. Gwen Margolis, who is retiring. The newly redrawn coastal District 38 roughly stretches from the MacArthur Causeway to the Broward County line and from the ocean to I-95.

Photo credit: State Rep. Daphne Campbell, D-Miami, in 2015. myfloridahouse.gov

*This post has been updated to correct Brutus' fundraising figures.

October 04, 2016

Traffic tolls become issue in Bullard-Artiles Senate race



A Miami Republican state representative seeking to be promoted to the Florida Senate this fall says he’s “taking a stand against tolls” — tapping into a popular consumer issue that puts him at odds with some in his own party.

Frank Artiles, who’s running against incumbent Democratic Sen. Dwight Bullard in Miami-Dade’s District 40, says he wants to fight back against “excessive and abusive tolls” that South Florida commuters face on a daily basis.

But Bullard, of Cutler Bay, has his own plans to reduce Miami-Dade commuters’ toll bills, and he argues his plan is more feasible than the one by moderate-sounding Republicans like Artiles, whose solution Bullard said is “to just get rid of the tolls.”

Full story here.

Photo credit: El Nuevo Herald file photo

Hispanic voters in play for new central Miami-Dade Senate district

Miami dade districts@ByKristenMClark

Both Democratic incumbent state Sen. Dwight Bullard and Republican state Rep. Frank Artiles are trying to gain the support of Hispanic voters for Miami-Dade's newly redrawn District 40 Senate seat.

With 75 percent of the district's voting age population Hispanic as of 2010, earning the favor of that voting bloc will be key to either Bullard or Artiles edging out a victory.

The Republican Party of Florida has helped Artiles -- the son of Cuban refugees -- in this effort by airing a Spanish-language ad for him recently on Miami TV. It features Artiles' mom touting how Artiles is a former Marine and is "a very good son, good husband and good father."

"Frank was raised with our Hispanic values and he shows it every day of his life," his mom says in Spanish.

Meanwhile, Bullard, who is black, said he has plans to tailor his campaign advertising to Hispanics, too. He told the Herald/Times that he'll be sending out his first mailers this week in English and in Spanish, focusing on his record of public service. And he also has plans for ads on Spanish-language radio.

The new District 40 in central Miami-Dade County is competitive ground for both candidates. It went for President Obama in 2012 with 54.8 percent of the vote.

Miami Herald political writer Patricia Mazzei contributed to this report.

September 29, 2016

Diaz de la Portilla drops 'conservative' from political committee name

Miguel dlp 020816


Miami Republican state Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla changed the name of his political committee last month to remove mention of "conservative values" and replace it with something he said would better reflect his focus for the future.

Diaz de la Portilla updated the name of his committee on Aug. 2 to the "Foundation for Human Values" from the previous "Foundation for Conservative Values," state records show. (As of Wednesday evening, though, the website for the committee still held the original "conservative" name.)

The subtle name change comes as Diaz de la Portilla faces a contentious battle for re-election this fall in a newly redrawn, Miami-based district that leans Democratic. State Rep. José Javier Rodríguez, D-Miami, is challenging him for what's now the District 37 seat.

Diaz de la Portilla told the Herald/Times that when he first started his fundraising committee a few years ago he wanted its name to reflect his fiscal conservatism and other similar political philosophies.

But "a lot has happened in the last 18 months," he said -- referencing terrorist attacks in Paris and Nice, France, the shooting of police in Dallas, and mass shootings in San Bernardino and Orlando.

"I wanted to have a much broader term that really encapsulates the issues I think we should focus on," Diaz de la Portilla said. "I'm just worried about the lack of respect and human values we're seeing in our country and all over the world."

By "human values," Diaz de la Portilla said he means values like "respect, solidarity, acceptance, brotherhood, compassion (and) love."

MORE: "New districts draw big Miami battle for Florida Senate"

Diaz de la Portilla, who was first elected to the Florida Senate in 2010, has gained a reputation for being one of the chamber's more moderate conservatives.

During the 2015 session, he killed a controversial, NRA-backed measure to allow concealed guns on public college and university campuses.

Then, after new Senate districts were approved in court, Diaz de la Portilla further cultivated his moderate image in the 2016 session by single-handedly killing campus-carry again and also halting another NRA-approved proposal to allow the open-carrying of firearms statewide with some exceptions.

During a meeting with the Miami Herald's editorial board on Wednesday, Rodríguez accused Diaz de la Portilla of running to the middle in order to curry favor and win the new Democratic-leaning seat.

"He has been governed by political calculation rather than political courage," Rodríguez said, pointing to the gun bills as an example.

Diaz de la Portilla, who met separately with the Herald also Wednesday, told the editorial board: "I don't make decisions on a partisan basis. ... I make decisions as a free-thinker based on the merits of the issues before me."

Independent candidate Mercedes Christian is also on the ballot in the District 37 race. The coastal district represents parts of Miami south to Cutler Bay.

August 19, 2016

Pivotal party primaries will decide a quarter of Florida's legislative seats


via @stevebousquet

It’s called a primary, but the election on Aug. 30 could be a defining moment for the Florida Legislature.

Across the state, primary races soon to be decided by a relative handful of voters may determine whether the Florida Senate stays on its moderate course or shifts to the right as new battles loom over abortion, education, guns and the environment.

The primary may decide whether Gov. Rick Scott will have more friends in the Capitol next spring, and whether deep-pocket newcomers can duplicate Scott’s success and use their personal wealth to catapult themselves to office.

From Miami to Pensacola, primary candidates and their allies are spending millions on TV spots, mailers, polls and phone calls, some of it highly personal, most of it negative, and all of it aimed at “super voters” who faithfully show up in primary elections.

“The primaries this year seem to be very intense,” said Marian Johnson, the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s long-time political director. “The question is, how many people will come out?”

More here.

Photo credit: The Florida House during debate in the final week of the 2016 session. Scott Keeler / Tampa Bay Times